Bluebird and Small Cavity Nester Conservation
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House Sparrow (HOSP) Photos

Also see Photos of other brown birds that look like HOSP, HOSP egg photos, more HOSP nest photos, HOSP management, attacks, history, numbers, behavior, nest and egg ID, HOSP euthanasia and more photos of HOSP nests in boxes, photo of HOSP in flight. All photos on this page by E.A. Zimmerman.

Male house sparrow. Photo by Bet Zimmerman

Beak of this male House Sparrow (HOSP) is black, the female's (below) is more brown/buff colored. Photo taken during breeding season.

To compare to other similar birds, see Other Brown Birds or HOSP or NOT - How to be sure (with photos).

The breast of both the female and male is dingy, but NOT striped (although it looks a little striped in the photo of the female below.

Back has black streaks.

Female house sparrow. Photo by Bet Zimmerman

Female HOSP are more difficult to identify than males. They are dull gray with a light streak at and behind the eye. Both male and female have a dingy grayish/buff breast without stripes.

Juveniles look like females but are browner above and more buff-colored below, with pinkish bills, legs and feet.

Female House Sparrow. Photo by Dave Kinneer.

Female House Sparrow, photo by Dave Kinneer. The colors in this outdoor shot are more true than some of the others on this page. Notice the beak color fo the female, chunky body style (although the bird is puffed up), and pink legs.

See more Dave Kinneer photos.

Female House Sparrow.

Female House Sparrow back view.

Male hosp bib. Photo by Bet Zimmerman

Male on left in breeding season.

Male on right in March, notice lighter bib.

Lighter bib on Male HOSP.
Male House Sparrow. photo by Bet Zimmerman. House Sparrow head beak

Male House Sparrow - photo on far left taking during breeding season in May 2007, on right another male photographed in December. Notice difference in beak color. Also notice cheek (white vs. gray).

Cap is gray (see below), not chestnut like a Chipping Sparrow. Coloring on individual birds varies. Also notice strong finch beak.

HOSP Female. Photo by Bet Zimmerman. HOSP female.  Photo by Bet Zimmerman. Female HOSP heads. Notice strips above eye, and lighter colored "collar." Beaks are not black like male during breeding season.
Female HOSP. Photo by Bet Zimmerman. Adult HOSP will feed insects to nestlings (this female has an insect in her beak). However, in agricultural areas, on average about 96% of the House Sparrows' diet consists of livestock feed, grains from fields and in storage, and weed seeds, and only 4% from insects. Urban birds tend to eat more commercial birdseed, weed seed, and human scraps. See HOSP History for information on how HOSP were introduced and became so widespread.
House Sparrow back HOSP legs. Male.

Photo of male on left taken in December. Notice white bar on wings.

Photo of underbelly of male HOSP taken in May.

Legs are pinkish/yellow.

Male HOSP. PHoto by Dave Kinneer.
Photo above of male House Sparrow by Dave Kinneer.
HOSP Female. Photo by Bet Zimmerman. Female HOSP. Photo below by Dave Kinneer.
Female House Sparrow. Photo by Dave Kinneer.
HOSP nesting in a sign.  Photo by dzyg

House Sparrow nests are a jumble of odds and ends, including coarse grass (with seed heads), cloth, white feathers, twigs and sometimes litter like cigarette butts. 

They build a tall nest, which usually has a tunnel-like entrance, especially when built outside of a nestbox. Photo of HOSP nesting in sign by Donna. See more HOSP nest photos. Also see photos of HOSP nests in commercial establishments.

Eggs are cream, white, gray or greenish, with irregular brown speckles. See more HOSP egg photos.

HOSP nest.  Photo by Bet Zimmerman. HOSP nest.  Photo by Bet Zimmerman

IMPORTANT: SOME NATIVE

BIRDS also lay speckled eggs. CHECK FIRST before removing nests! See EGG ID Matrix

HOSP eggs with a greenish cast.  Photo by Bet Zimmerman

I call this one "Green Eggs and Trash." These eggs have a distinctly greenish cast.

Note seed head, feathers, hair and cellophane in nest cup.

Nest construction and reconstruction is rapid, so removal of nests tends to be an ineffective control method. Be aware that some other cavity nesters build messy nests (e.g., Great crested flycatcher), and a few also have brown speckled eggs.

House sparrow eggs. Photo by Bet Zimmerman. HOSP eggs relative to an American quarter. See more HOSP egg photos.
House Sparrow nest. Photo by Bet Zimmerman
HOSP nestlings. Photo by Bet Zimmerman

House Sparrow nestlings. My calculations indicate that one pair of HOSP could theoretically multiply into 1,250 birds over a five year period.

See House Sparrow Management for information on passive and active HOSP control methods. It IS possible, by consistently using a combination of passive and active control methods over time, to almost eliminate House Sparrows from your neighborhood, or at least to ensure that they are not a serious threat to native cavity nesting birds.

HOSP flock.  Photo by Bet Zimmerman Flock of HOSP outside Notre Dame in Paris. (My traveling companion did find it odd that I was photographing HOSP instead of the historical monuments surrounding us.) HOSP were introduced to the U.S. from Europe, and are now the most abundant "songbird" on the continent, with an estimated 150 million birds established in all 48 states.
Feeding HOSP at Notre Dame in France. Photo by Bet Zimmerman HOSP being fed bread by tourists in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. HOSP tend to congregate where scraps are available, such as outside fast food restaurants. Some people think HOSP are cute, but many bluebird landlords consider them the equivalent of "rats with wings."
Male House Sparrows in france.

Male House Sparrows. Notice gray cap with chestnut underneath.

House Sparrows are aggressive, and will attack and destroy bluebird eggs, nestlings and adults.

It is better to have no nestbox at all than to allow House Sparrows to reproduce in one.

More information about HOSP on this website (sialis.org):

    "Three years ago, my husband and I moved to beautiful 50 acre farm with some wooded area as well as flat, open pasture that the bluebirds, barn swallows and purple martins love so much. In our ignorance, the first year, we allowed a pair of HOSPs to nest in one of the blue bird boxes.… What a mistake! The next summer, we were dismayed to see all the bluebird boxes filled with House Sparrow nests, and the bluebirds just seemed to disappear. "
    - Trudy Pischer (Bluebird_Listserv), 2005


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